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who pour contempt on our treasure—the most glorious object that God ever showed to man—while they bring forward their little trifles—their shells and their pebbles—and summon the world to the admiration of thein!
I call on you, therefore, to seek True Wisdom; that you may be of the number of those whom God calls wise, and will prove to have been such in the face of these scorners : for, "They that be wise, shall shine as the stars for ever and ever. Let us be candidates for that glory: and let us remember, that no man ever sought in vain that honour which cometh of God.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES.
MATT. XVI. 1, 2, 3. The Pharisees also, with the Sadducees, came : and, tempting, de
sired him that he would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather ; for the sky is red: and, in the morning, it will be foul weather to-day; for the sky is red and lowering. Oye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky, but can ye not discern the signs of the times ?
THE Pharisees and Sadducees were the formalists and infidels of that day. They came in a curious, unbelieving spirit,-a spirit never likely to receive any instruction : but they came in this spirit, desiring to see a sign, or miracle. Our Lord reproved this spirit: for he looked at the hearts of these men. He seems to have reproved them in this sentiment :“Ye are observant in natural things : ye know how to read the face of the sky; but how is it that ye are so blind in moral considerations, that ye seem to know nothing at all of the signs of the times !”—or, as St. Luke expresses it, in the twelfth chapter of his Gospel, “ How is it that
do not discern this time? Why do not ye understand your dispensation? Why, like children, do ye want to see something that shall meet your curiosity, in this idle and unbelieving spirit? You see enough, if you could read what you see. Why do you not perceive that the kingdom of God is among you ?--that Christ, the Son of God, is come and hath eternal life. Having eyes, ye see not! You look at the skies, and learn to read them; and why do you not read the signs and tokens of your times ?
We are here taught, therefore, that a conscientious man will endeavour, so far as he is able, to read the Signs of his Time. I shall endeavour to point out, 1. THE SIGNS OF OUR TIMES. 2. WHAT THESE SIGNS SUGGEST IN REGARD
1. Let us inquire, WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF OUR TIMES.
1. As they proceed from God.
He hath afforded us a singular Dispensation of Grace. He hath put us in a capacity of being delivered from our sins, in their guilt and power.
He hath set before us a refuge: that we, being delivered from our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives.' He hath set forth “a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us :' by this way we have access to God.
Not only is this special privilege a Sign, of our Times, but God has evidently a contention with Europe, under its awful neglect of this dispensation of mercy... "The Lord is doing his strange work. He hath evidently risen out of his place,' as the Prophet expresses it. I cannot adequately speak on this subject: it must overwhelm you. He brings vast armies to nothing ! * The mighty men do not find their hands! The most unexpected vicissitudes take place-such as we cannot match in history! The valiant expire in the arms of victory!*
Consider more particularly our condition as a nation. How long have we been threatened with an overwhelming invasion! Every preparation has been made, and yet how has it been delayed! How bave the arms of our enemies been chained! What a train of victories mark the history of the present times! Nor ought it to be forgotten, that God has caused his name to be owned in those victories. What patience and long-suffering has God exercised toward us, under great provocations! It seems to have been said concerning us, as it was concerning the fig-tree, 'Spare it yet a little longer.'
* This Sermon was preached soon after the intelligence arrived of the victory of Trafalgar, and the death of Lord Nelson.
Such are the signs of the Times, as they proceed from God.
2. Let us turn to the consideration of these Signs, as they proceed from man.
It will be much too large a field to enter on the atrocious and audacious infidelity of the times—to say nothing of the contempt, or at least the neglect, of the dispensation of grace under which we liveto say nothing of the worldly spirit of speculation, and the multiplied efforts after gain--to say nothing of the affectation, the consequence, and the extravagance which pervade all orders; and the impurity and insubordination of spirit, diffused over the world. I pass by these general sins, to mark one; and that one appears to me to be the most awful of all sins
THE MORAL INSENSIBILITY OF THE TIMES ! the Moral Insensibility !—for if, while God is contending with the careless and wicked world, which despises the dispensation of his grace, Christendom still continues overwhelmed in its sins, I cannot understand how the stroke is to cease. Is it not sent to scourge Christendom, till there appears something like moral sensibility ? till the sinner is disposed to cry, I have sinned ? till some shame is felt for our insulting contempt of the Son of God's coming down from heaven to bear our sins in his own body on the tree ?
I cannot understand how the stroke should cease, till this moral sensibility appears!
One, who has not looked into this matter, might perhaps be ready to say,
“What can you mean by Insensibility? The greatest sensibility prevails at this very time. Every idea seems to be called home.
Every one speaks feelingly of the extraordinary intelligence of the last week. The whole conversation turns on this subject!"
All this is quite natural. Shall a man spend his life in such a cause, and expire under the circumstances of such a victory, without awakening our feelings ? Shall such a check be given to our inveterate enemy, and no sensation of thankfulness arise even in the most insensible?
But--has it never been heard, that one died, not for his friends, but for his enemies? Is there no instance of a glorious victory, accomplished over the world, sin, and hell, by the death of that one who came from heaven, and was equal with the Father, yet came to lay down his life for sinners ? That people, who are full of feeling on the present occasion, have perhaps scarcely in their lives ever thought or spoke or would even bear to hear of these things--is not this Moral Insensibility?
What is said in the eighth chapter of Jeremiah, seems to me exceedingly like the present Signs of the Times :- I hearkened, and heard; but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? Every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle. Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times, and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord God is not in all their thoughts?'
What says our Lord, in the eleventh chapter of St. Luke?. The Queen of the South shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and shall condemn them : for she came from the utmost parts of the earth, to hear the wisdom of Solomon ; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they re